Remember The Office? Of course! Well, how could you forget? The show took Britain by storm and was so popular that it was immediately brought over to the United States. It reflected all of the mundane, everyday, insane humor that we suffer through every day of our lives that we spend in our cubicles and at our desks! Though we’ve always been unable to explain just why we hate our bosses, The Office perfectly communicated it through Michael Scott. Though we couldn’t find the words to explain why some meetings are hilariously enjoyable, even when they’re utterly miserable, The Office was able to show everyone how it was done. And though we complain almost every day about our work lives and how we hate spending time at the office, The Office showed just how we’re able to tolerate our professional lives.
The show started (in the United States) back in 2004, which doesn’t feel like a long time ago but really was! The show had a few stars in it that held a lot of launch value for the show, including (of course) Steve Carell as Michael Scott. And looking back, there were so many other stars that wound up on this show. However, do you realize just how many of those “stars” were nobodies when they were on The Office? The casting directors of this show had an unusual talent for finding some amazing actors and giving them a chance to shine! Without The Office, many of these actors would still be big, fat nobodies struggling to pay their bills as actors. But no more! Here are fifteen actors you totally forgot got their start on The Office:
15. Craig Robinson
Can we even remember a time when Craig Robinson didn’t seem like he was running the entertainment industry? Because it feels like he’s been there all along thinking up ridiculous movies with his friends! Though he acted for a while before getting his supporting role as Darryl Philbin on The Office, none of his roles seemed to get him the attention he needed to get his career going. But after he got his role on The Office, he made contacts in the comedy industry. He got roles in Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, then Pineapple Express, where he would meet his soon-to-be best friends: Seth Rogen, James Franco, and Danny McBride. This group would go on to make a barrage of weird and hilarious comedies, including This is the End, Zack and Miri Make a Porno, Hot Tub Time Machine, and Sausage Party. Plus, he’s been able to maintain a totally independent career both in acting and in music.
14. Ellie Kemper
These days, everyone knows Ellie Kemper as the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt from her Netflix original series made by Tina Fey, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. But before Ellie became ‘mole woman’ Kimmy, she was the adorable, naive, and possibly every so slightly stupid receptionist who was called in to replace Pam, Kelly Erin Hannon (remember? her first name was Kelly!). Erin perhaps wasn’t intended to be a character that stuck around until the end, but she was so beloved that everyone looked forward to spending time at the receptionist desk with her! Before Ellie Kemper was in The Office, she had little to speak of in her credits. Her time in acting school earned her roles in shorts and mini-series, but that was about all. However, after The Office, she’s been in everything from Bridesmaids and 21 Jump Street to The Mindy Project and The Lego Batman Movie. Plus… you know… her entire Netflix series…
13. Zach Woods
Let’s just ignore this hilarious quote for a moment and focus on the quirky actor behind the character. This is Zach Woods, but you likely know him better as Gabe Lewis, the Sabre employee who seemed to get the worst jobs and was a self-described “toilet” for the company, taking care of crap jobs that nobody else wanted to deal with. Gabe was brought on as a temporary character, in the beginning, to help Dunder Mifflin transition to Sabre’s way of work. But the actor brought such hilarious quirks to the character that he wound up sticking around the show for multiple seasons! The actor has gone on to do even better things. Before The Office, he struggled to land bit roles in cinematic shorts and independent films. Since he got cast on the show, however, he’s gotten bigger and bigger roles in comedies like The Other Guys, Ghostbusters, The Heat, Veep, and The League.
12. Rainn Wilson
Here’s another actor from the show that some may debate about. Some true cinephiles (meaning, people totally obsessed with movies and television shows) recognize Rainn Wilson from his scattered and varied work before The Office, including small roles in Galaxy Quest, Full Frontal, Sahara, Juno, and My Super Ex-Girlfriend. He also was a main character on the show Six Feet Under (another forgettable drama-comedy for the books). When he was cast as Dwight on The Office, directors hoped he would be an actor that perhaps people recognized, though they didn’t have any associations with previous characters (because he was unknown). Well, it worked, and Rainn Wilson is now known as the weird, controlling, and outlandish Dwight Schrute, though soon, he’ll become better known for his role in Star Trek: Discovery as Harry Mudd, an apparent scoundrel based on the original 1960s character — which makes sense, as the new series takes place 10 years prior to Kirk’s adventures.
11. Jake Lacy
Jake Lacy played Pete, otherwise known around the office as “new Jim” because he was young, good-looking, and weirdly single. It’s a bit more debatable if Jake Lacy truly got his ‘start’ on The Office; after all, he was actually cast as a lead character named Casey Marion Davenport in the show Better With You. Don’t remember it? Well, that’s because the show was terrible and was canceled after one season. By all rights, that could have been the end of Jake’s career, but The Office took another chance on Jake, and we’re so glad that it did! He was a much better fit for Erin to date, and though the audience was not so accepting of the idea of having a “new Jim” or a “new Dwight,” he proved to be a sweet and valuable member of the Dunder Mifflin team. Jake’s gone on to have strong roles in How to Be Single, Carol, and Obvious Child.
10. Leslie David Baker
When you see this face, what do you think of? You think of Stanley Hudson, one of the Scranton, Pennsylvania regional salesmen for Dunder Mifflin! You think of the rotund man who managed to keep multiple affairs going and never had them totally ruin his personal life even though his entire office knew! You think of the man weirdly excited to go to Florida for work purposes! You think of STANLEY! Well, truthfully, the man behind the mustache is Leslie David Baker. He’s been in the acting industry since the late ’90s, but nothing ever really made a mark until he got cast on The Office. Since then, he’s been a guest star too many times to count. He’s starred in a short-lived show alongside Billy Ray Cyrus, and he’s voice-acted just about as much as he’s been in front of the camera himself. His latest venture is with Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie as Officer McPigly.
9. Phyllis Smith
Phyllis was always such an odd lady — that is, the Phyllis Vance from the show (married to Bob Vance of Bob Vance refrigeration, of course) — not the real life Phyllis Smith! Phyllis Vance was an odd woman who walked the fine line between old maid (with her knitting and adoration for rainy weather) and weirdly still kind of young (she’s just about Michael Scott’s age, though she doesn’t really look it). She was always more fun on the show than we expected. Perhaps that’s why her career only really took off after The Office had her! When she was younger, she was actually an NFL cheerleader and was quite stunning (no, really), but life has a way of changing a lot, and she only got started acting again when she got the job on The Office! Since then, she’s been in Inside Out, Arrested Development, Trophy Wife, Bad Teacher, and The OA.
8. David Denman
David Denman played Roy in The Office. Remember him? He was Pam’s first fiance in season one; the guy who had won Pam over in high school and had failed to keep her love ever since. David had worked for years in the acting industry and had barely managed to make an impression before he landed his role as Roy. He thought he’d landed his big start when he was cast in The Replacements, and then again when he was cast in Angel. But as soon as he got his role on the indie comedy The Office, he was getting calls left and right to be in When a Stranger Calls, Smart People, and Fanboys. Lately, he’s most popular for his roles in After Earth, Parenthood, 13 Hours, Outcast, and Power Rangers. The Office did amazing things for his career even if Roy was one of the most careless and rude characters of the entire series!
7. Jenna Fischer
OH YEAH! Remember the days when we didn’t know who Jenna Fischer was at all? When we weren’t familiar with that cute curly hair, or that genuinely happy smile, or all of her cute sarcasm? Because there was a time, and it wasn’t too long ago. Like many of her castmates in The Office, Jenna had been trying to get her start in acting since the late ’90s. She played various sorority girls a few times and the occasional waitress or dog-sitter (probably in real life and on screen) other times. But after she got her role as a secretary in The Office? She. Was. Everywhere. From comedies like Walk Hard, Blades of Glory, and Hall Pass to more dramatic endeavors like Slither, Solitary Man, and A Little Help, Jenna Fischer was the woman that every other woman felt they already were yet wanted to become! She was (and still kind of is) America’s sweetheart!
6. John Krasinski
Where would we be, talking about Pam, if we didn’t also talk about Jim? Jim Halpert was utterly in love with Pam Beesly from day one of the show, and watching their characters’ resolution at the end was still a bit tear-jerking. John Krasinski totally nailed his performance as Jim and had women everywhere swooning for him (some are still out there swooning). But before he was Jim, he was a little bit of a nobody. He’d had a slightly bigger role in Jarhead, but it wasn’t enough to get him the attention he needed. But after he became Jim, he was handed roles in more workplace settings like in A New Wave and The Holiday; heavy dramas like Dreamgirls and Leatherheads; and, of course, the millions of chick flicks that wanted Jim Halpert in their story, like Something Borrowed, It’s Complicated, License to Wed, and Away We Go.
5. Angela Kinsey
Now that we’re thinking about it, there are a lot of characters in The Office that kept the names of the actors portraying them… first Phyllis, now Angela…
ANYWAYS, yes, Angela totally got her start on The Office. As a matter of fact, we bet you don’t remember ANYTHING she was in before The Office, do you? Well, that’s because she wasn’t in practically anything! Almost no one cared to cast her until she landed this role because she was related to one of the show-runners! It just goes to show that just because someone isn’t getting a lot of work doesn’t mean that he or she’s a bad actor. Since becoming one of the pivotal characters in The Office, she’s been in New Girl, Hot Wives of Orlando, The Hot Wives of Las Vegas, and now the new Netflix show about Miranda (from Youtube in the late 2000s), Haters Back Off!
4. Amy Adams
Yes. Amy Adams got her start in The Office. Well… sort of. Let us explain…
Amy Adams is one of those actresses who thought they’d gotten their start several times before they managed to really make one stick. Before the actress was getting roles in Man of Steel, Enchanted, and Arrival, she was struggling to just get her name known. She landed a small role in Catch Me if You Can alongside Leonardo DiCaprio, a role that everyone thought would explode her career. When it didn’t, she panicked but kept trying. She kept taking guest roles in shows like The West Wing, Dr. Vegas, and The Office — until comedy players saw her in this show. They put her alongside Will Ferrell in Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, and her career split wide open! Who would have thought selling bags in Michael Scott’s conference room would get her the start in her career she needed!
3. Mark Proksch
We’re going to be straight with you: Mark Proksch is a weird guy. In The Office, he played one of Darryl Philbin’s greatest annoyances and eternal frustrations: Nate, who worked in the warehouse. Nate was totally obsessed with Darryl and was ready to have his back no matter what even if Darryl really didn’t feel the same way. He also was a great help to Dwight, no matter how idiotic his schemes were. Mark got his start entirely on The Office — he’d never acted before the show and hadn’t really considered continuing the career until a bit after he’d started. But he’s gone on to have a pretty thriving career, including consistent (and consistently hilarious) roles in Dream Corp LLC, Son of Zorn, Better Call Saul, and Decker, plus mini roles and guest star spots in almost every comedy you’ve come to enjoy in the past ten years. This weird guy is doing pretty well for himself!
2. Benjamin J. Novak
Benjamin J. Novak is better known to everyone that worked on The Office as B.J. Novak, but he’s even better known to us as the cool but unmistakably idiotic and narcissistic Ryan, who, over the course of the series, turns from temp. to employee to boss to criminal to employee again. B.J. Novak, though, is very little like his character; in fact, he’s quite brilliant and quickly became an executive producer of the show, though he had little to no background in production management. He’s actually a much better writer than he is an actor, in our opinion, and we encourage you to go out and get his book of short stories called One More Thing. But, to our point, The Office launched B.J.’s career in every way possible. He’s become a writer for shows because of it, a published author for the same reason, and still gets cast constantly in big titles like Saving Mr. Banks, Inglourious Basterds, and The Amazing Spider-Man 2. His latest role was in Founder, all about the corporate big guys that launched McDonald’s.
1. Mindy Kaling
Last but absolutely and certainly not least is Mindy Kaling. Mindy played Kelly Lahiri while on The Office, the customer relations officer who was constantly written off for her race, though she was much more the All-American, hyper-consumerist, tabloid junkie type. Her on-again-off-again relationship with Ryan was both one of the most annoying and one of the most hilarious parts of the show. But most importantly, The Office got Mindy Kaling the exposure she needed to launch her career. While on the show, she did stand up as much as possible and took roles everywhere to spread her name, from The 40-Year-Old Virgin and License to Wed to Wreck it Ralph and Inside Out. Since 2012, her dream has been realized of having her own comedy. She stars in it as a young woman with her own medical practice and prides herself on being a real-life role model to young ladies everywhere.